Start of the Formula 1 final: Vettel is surprised, Schumacher can hope

In terms of sport, Sebastian Vettel's last Formula 1 race is no longer about anything.

Start of the Formula 1 final: Vettel is surprised, Schumacher can hope

In terms of sport, Sebastian Vettel's last Formula 1 race is no longer about anything. Instead, the 35-year-old is happy about the helmets with which the competition is celebrating him and invites them to take a photo. Mick Schumacher's new job is approaching and Max Verstappen sets Friday's best time.

Sebastian Vettel and Mick Schumacher shouldn't expect any positive surprises at their farewell performances in Abu Dhabi. The four-time Formula 1 World Champion Vettel, who is contesting his 299th and final Grand Prix on Sunday (2 p.m. / Sky and in the live ticker on ntv.de), finished twelfth in free practice in the Aston Martin. Mick Schumacher, who had to vacate his cockpit at Haas for Nico Hülkenberg at the end of the year, came in 17th.

But Schumacher has long kept his eyes open for other options in Formula 1 - and the top team Mercedes continues to send positive signs regarding a possible employment, at least as a substitute driver. "The Schumacher family is closely related to Mercedes. He's German, he fits in incredibly well with the star. He deserves a place in Formula 1. Now we have to see what we can do," said Mercedes Motorsport Director Toto Wolff on Sky -Microphone.

The best time was secured by world champion Max Verstappen, who can extend his Formula 1 record to 15 victories this season. In 1:25.146 minutes, the Dutch Red Bull star was 0.341 seconds faster than Brazil winner George Russell (Mercedes) on his best lap and was almost half a second ahead of Ferrari driver Charles Leclerc, who tied for second in the world championship with Verstappens Mexican team-mate Sergio Perez goes into the last race of the season. Perez finished fifth behind record world champion Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes).

For the 35-year-old Vettel, where he won his first title in 2010, it is only marginally about the sporting side. He knows that his "last race will probably not be the highlight of my career," he said. There is plenty of room for emotions. Father Norbert Vettel surprised his famous son in the team garage with the first racing helmet, the first racing gloves and the first overall. Mick Schumacher and Fernando Alonso wore helmets in the typical Vettel design: white with black, red and gold.

Vettel, on the other hand, had an appointment with all his driver colleagues for dinner on Thursday, and for Saturday evening he invited the entire paddock to run one last lap on the track with him and take a gigantic group photo. "This is Sebastian's way of saying goodbye to everyone who has been part of his Formula 1 journey," Aston Martin said.

The first practice session at the Yas Marina Circuit at noon still had manageable value. Eight regular drivers - including Verstappen and Schumacher - had to hand over their cockpits to junior staff or reserve drivers in FP1. Vettel finished sixth and initially gave hope for a good finish. In the second unit, the impression was put into perspective.

One of the eight Friday drivers was Logan Sargeant in the Williams. The traditional British team has promised the American the last remaining regular cockpit for 2023. However, Sargeant still has to get the necessary points for the super license at the end of the Formula 2 season, also this weekend in Abu Dhabi. He is third in the championship, with sixth place in the final standings the calculations would be over. But if he fails, Schumacher could still hope for a regular place next year. Otherwise, the Mercedes option remains.

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